The Remoulding of Ianto Jones

I Yoshiwara

In the third year of the Great Despair Festival the man who answers to nine hundred names
came to the metropolitan world of Yoshiwara

Wirst du verrückt, mein Liebchen?

How easily the crowd’s fashionable melancholia seeps into the fabric of metropolis life. Already the rainbow swathes of table cloths on Café Boulevard have been replaced with fabric of the purest charcoal; red carnations paling into vases of white lilies. Everywhere, on all the planets ruled by the Kings of Infinite Space the justiciars’ trademark pink armbands are being subverted by lilacs and purples: whole solar systems decaying into the subdued pastels of memorial gardens and funerary rites.

High in her palace, Ruth XXVII, king of the city world, surveys her colourless empire from video screens on the walls of her tiny oubliette. In the courtyard outside her fawning servitors block the door to her chamber with cut black roses, weaving a wall of a million thorny buds. She will not be permitted to leave until the festivities are over.

 Jack Harkness has been forced into donning a dark grey suit to avoid the displeasure of the promenaders. He hates the enforced formality of the occasion and would love to steal a silvership and escape but the sombre carnival stretches for forty light years in most directions and besides, if he stops for a moment to admit the truth to himself, he harbours a secret curiosity as to what it would feel like to succumb to several centuries of buried guilt.

The festival permits this; nay – requires – such self-indulgent introspection. It feeds off the delicious cruelty of doubt, the artful anguish of spurned love, the anarchic revenge of petty betrayals. It is almost a life force in itself: a self-propagating meme leaping from spaceport to spaceport across the human domain of Infinite Space. What the other species cohabiting the realm make of the peculiar event has never been adequately catalogued.

He strides the tourmaline walkway which spirals around the towers of the upper city, following the serpentine coils inexorably towards the Petitioners' Door at the palace, watching as the crowds below shrink to dark stains around the concrete tourniquets that bind the road to the skyscrapers; each supporting buttress a home to alien beggars, alien pimps, alien preachers.  He desires permission to become a professional gambler; an occupation normally forbidden to the denizens of Yoshiwara, yet this is no ordinary time. This is the age of the Great Despair Festival and nothing that might bring sorrow is denied unless the denial itself brings greater sorrow. He must choose his words and his expression carefully.

In the great shadow cast by the vast aerial roadway along King Ruth Strasse and the Imperial Way the cyber-soothsayers whirr out of their booths to offer the future in a drop of diesel oil, their chrome eyes the only sign of sentience in dead faces. One among their number casts its expressionless visage upwards towards the single man approaching the side of the palace and weeps yellow tears from silver eyes. It knows the man will be granted his wish.

In the days that follow shutters are closed and nailed in the Low City as Lord Brax, pretender to the throne of King Ruth, whips a mob of mendicants and snuff merchants into a frenzy and leads the motley procession from the Plaza of Unrealised Dreams down Minaret Street and up the Great Stairs to the Children's Gate marking the entrance to the Royal City. Jack watches through binoculars from a window on the forty-first floor of the Glass Emporium as the ragged band pit their gavels and sickles against the vibroblades of the justiciar army protecting the palace. It is a near-massacre of ripped flesh and bare bone, though no one is killed outright save Lord Brax whose severed head remains pinned above the Children's Gate for two weeks as a warning to other insurrectionists.

It is time then for the visitor to begin his work, before the whole planet succumbs to infinite madness, before rationality itself lies extinct on the tourmaline curves.

Between the perfumes of fear, the budding blood on the lips of the festival’s most fervent consumptives, the man with many names weaves his fiscal romances, taking tollars from the aristocrats of Nemosyne, solari from the bored housewives of Gigerlette and Galathea, credit wheels from the robotraders of Cassander-Bergamot, poker chips from the giggling loveboys of the Grey Confederacy. He is amassing a fortune – enough to buy a small planet or a large moon. What he intends to spend it on is never openly answered but in his wake the speculations become almost as physical a reality as the carnival itself.

Where others take up the sickle knives that have become the event’s signature and carve their own limbs into the most delicate abstractions he is unmoved. Where the great processions of weepers circle around the Royal City extorting payments from restaurant patrons he is dry-eyed. Where the lamenters scream their dirges from the balconies high along the curve of the Columbine Circuit his throat is quiet.

By the time the memory artists creep out from the burned wrecks of the pleasure houses to offer solace in the form of tri-D models of departed lovers the man who walks alone in the evening has himself departed.


II Nenuphar

In the fifth year of the Great Despair Festival the man who had used a thousand names
came to the arid world of Nenuphar

See these arms that are broken, how they held you so.

From the end of the vast hallway strode a creature twice the height of an average human and cadaverously thin. In its right claw it held a long ebony stick which it tapped on the tiled floor as it walked, a thin sound that echoed and re-echoed off the distant walls. Close behind it a wheeled catafalque followed clunking and squeaking as its mechanism worked overtime to keep up with the giant stride.

As it neared it tilted its head in manner than in a man may have been taken for obsequiousness and began clicking its mandibles together in a series of Morse-like sounds. Presently the translator unit atop the black pole stuttered into life. "Dear client, for your inspection and approval we bring you the latest iteration." When it failed to get a response the message was repeated, this time with a slight urgency to the clicks. A pair of huge multifaceted eyes glinted in the half light.

Getting impatient a three-digit hand poked at a button on the control stick and immediately the bronzed surface of the catafalque cracked open with a release of steam. "The modifications have been made in accordance with your last instructions." Hairs on the creature's jaw flanges trapped some of the escaping moisture. "We trust the Hive's handiwork will meet the terms of our contract."

The man on the dais pushed himself out of the gold chair as the catafalque's lid opened wider. Nestling inside on a material resembling purple velvet lay the naked body of a young man — unmoving, unbreathing.

A pair of warm human hands gripped the hard side of the casket. "No."

Frantic clicking. "The height and colouration have been adjusted to specifications. The contract is met."

Jack turned away so the body merchant couldn't see his eyes. "For what I'm paying you I expect perfection. Or the closest damned thing to it." There was a threatening rattle behind him as it shook its wing cases but the translator remained silent. "It needs more body hair. Lots more." He eased back into the chair. "And the penis is at least half a decimetre too long. I'm not buying a satyr."

"The genital protuberance of the model is within operating specifications. If the client will permit me to demonstrate full turgidity…" Water droplets splatted onto the young man's chest as insectoid jaws clicked out commands to the catafalque’s internal machinery.

"Just go," Jack said wearily. "Come back when you've done the corrections."


This time the unveiling of the body elicited a faint nod of approval from the buyer. The merchant bent its body double to meet the human's eye level. "The client wishes to sign off this model?"

It was disconcerting to see his own reflection staring back at him a thousand times over. "The pupils are far too blue." Jack peered inside the catafalque ignoring the domed eye hovering at his cheek. "Human eyes are not turquoise."

The end of the translator unit banged twice into the ground in a show of anger. "Dear client," said the electronic voice, devoid of inflection, "for a high percentile simulacrum the Hive prefers to use neuroleptic immersion to —"

"No," Jack said emphatically. "You’re not trawling my memories with your drugs." He didn’t quite trust the Hive to keep such recordings confidential. There were always demands for new experiential theatre programmes and, besides, there were enough people out to get him without his past crimes being available for any deadhead with a vigilante complex to plug into. "Take it away."

He watched from his gold chair at the far end of the presentation hall, as the fleshmaster and the body vault hissed and squeaked their way towards the double doors separating the hive interior from the public galleries. It was becoming a long year.


The Hall of the Returned was exactly one hundred decametres long and thirty decametres wide. The floor being slightly concave the far door to the Hive interior was always viewable from any position on the waiting dais. Above, a roof formed of six intersecting domes of differing sizes houses the public galleries. Whether it was done out of some kind of insect aesthetics or whether they merely wished to create a spectacle the chequerboard floor tiles were logarithmically sized with the larger tiles at the far end of the space, making the approaching fleshmaster and his wheeled perambulator appear to increase in stature as they neared the golden seat.

Eventually the procession stopped just short of the dais lip. He watched the merchant’s razor-sharp mandibles chitter away over the microphone on the translator unit. "Dear client. The Hive wishes you to know that given the age of the sample DNA it may not be possible to guarantee full accuracy of the reconstruction process."

Jack sighed. It sounded very much like a prelude to an admission of failure. "Just open it up and let me see it."

With a sibilant hiss of escaping gas the catafalque's encrusted lid split open like a peapod. Again the body merchant's translator hiccupped into voice: "For optimal results the Hive requests DNA samples of human life forms to be less than six hundred and ten cycles old."

Though still unmoving the body in the velvet womb was pinker than the last time he had seen it. For the first time it looked recognisble enough to spark a memory of distant Earth. Ianto, my Ianto. Without thinking he reached down to feel its skin then halted, his fingers barely an inch from its flesh. "May I?"

"The client may touch the merchandise," the insect clicked, "but all breakages must be paid for."



III Chlorosis

In the sixth year of the Great Despair Festival the man who had been called a thousand and one names
came to the verdant world of Chlorosis

In the garden of Priapus, in the land of lost desire.

In the half hour it took Jack to manoeuvre the heavy catafalque up the ramp to the habitation dome he'd managed to work up a bit of a sweat. Not that it was in their interest to be duplicitous but he half expected the fleshmaster had removed the steering control in a fit of insectoid pique.

As he pushed the last few decimetres through the archway the house hologram flickered into view wrinkling her nose in mock disgust. "Whatever happened to your perfect 25th century pheromones?"

"They're having an off day in this humidity." Actually that couldn't have been true. The thought crossed his mind that perhaps there had been something in the atmosphere of Nenuphar designed to negate other companies' competing biomechanics. "Any sign of pursuers?"

The figure closed its eyelids briefly as a subroutine split off to run checks. "No justiciar interceptors within two hundred million kilometres. You're safe." There was a distinct cast to her eyes when she opened them again. "Mind you, given the time it took you to push that thing inside we could have been overrun by policemen by now."

Jack tsked in disapproval, shunting the dark box against the corridor wall as best he could. "'Welcome home Jack.'" There were gouge marks on the floor where the heavy wheels had scored into the plastic.

She parroted the phrase, shimmering closer. "Do I get a peek?"

He held open one half of the casket lid just enough for three hidden cameras to catch a glimpse of the contents.

The hologram bent to look inside in a simulacrum of human activity. "So much body hair! He's a lot older than I expected."

The lid clunked shut. "Biologically he's in his early twenties."

"Quite." She gave an innocent smile.

"Toshiko Sato, whatever are you insinuating?" But the projection faded away like the Cheshire Cat with teeth remaining just a microsecond too long to be accidental.


"So what's his role to be?" the flickering spectre asked.

"I don’t understand the question," came the impatient response as Jack's biceps bulged trying to push the body vault flush against the wall for the third time that afternoon.

"Yes you do." There was a pause as one of her computation matrices worked out the consequences of sending a maintenance drone out to help. "Is he to be a pet? A companion? A sex toy?"

"Why insist on labelling him?"

"Because labels define the limits of our relationships. He may look twentysomething but biologically his cells are less than a year old. And what stage of development are his mental faculties?"

"Since when have you been my moral compass, Tosh?"

"Since you got my original killed and programmed me."

It was a fair point he had to admit. Somehow his subconscious must have wanted something to rail against when he'd had her first installed. "Finished, are we?"

She was. There was a sharp tick from behind him as a drone aborted its launch and recoupled its power conduit.


"Oh for God's sake say something, Toshiko," Jack said after the third hour of silence. "I'd no idea A.I.s could sulk so much."

"I'm not sulking." The hologram materialised by his side. "I was reading up on his instruction manual." She produced an antique scroll from nowhere and pretended to read it. "Apparently they all come housetrained with a basic skills and a language of choice. So he should be able to eat, dress and use the toilet without soiling himself." A fluorescent finger pointed towards a small slot near the head of the casket. "That's for the extra programming. Memories. Behavioural tics. Sexual preferences." She'd worked out the syntax fairly quickly however it had taken her another hour or so to put together a few packages which she calculated should cover most of Jack's personal requirements.

"I thought all clones retained some residual cellular memory of who they once were?"

It was telling he'd obviously not been thorough with his research. "Would you remember who you were after spending seven hundred years as a clothes stain?"

A wink. "Depends on which pair of boxers I'd been wearing."

Incorrigible. She made her avatar sigh loudly. "He's not a computer though. You need to load the extra modules then leave him to simmer, to coin a phrase, for a couple of months. Readjustment to full animation shouldn’t take longer than two to three weeks after that." There were several technical footnotes in the manual but given the way Jack was eyeing the naked body in the catafalque she decided it probably wasn't a good time to air them.

"He'll need constant massage to keep his body supple."

"No he doesn't. There's an inbuilt —"

"I'd best draw up a schedule," Jack said happily. "Arms and legs and things."

She suspected the 'and things' would receive the most attention.


The body in the casket could have been for all intents and purposes dead. Whatever technological miracles the fleshmasters had done to the DNA to regrow a Ianto Jones they'd been equally accomplished in manufacturing the supporting machinery. There were no pipes or tubes entering the body but it was warm to the touch and exhibited none of the frosting expected with cryogenically preserved flesh. The skin was flushed as if with pumped blood even as the chest remained static. It was even proving immune to the jungle humidity which was taxing even the hubship's vacuum-proof atmosphere.

Toshiko watched through her cameras as Jack fed the programming modules into the waiting slot, positively cooing with anticipation. Since his return from Nenuphar he'd certainly been more purposeful than he had been in decades. Currently he'd taken to lifting the clone's head several times a day and combing its hair tenderly. She thought it only a matter of time before wandering hands moved the comb southwards, so to speak. "If I didn't know you better that would look extremely creepy."

Startled he let the item slip from his fingers. "I'm just making him comfortable."

"Really? There's a thin line between altruism and self-gratification." She thought there was little difference between the torso of the clone and a torso of someone unconscious through intoxication and said as much as bluntly as she could.

"You cannot possibly suggest what I'm doing is tantamount to ra—"

"Did he give his consent?" she asked, wondering how far she dared push her point.

"Do you think for a moment I'd do anything to Ianto that he'd object to?"

That was the whole crux of the argument. "But he's not Ianto. At least not yet." And maybe, she thought sadly, he never will be.

"He's my clone. The law says he's an inanimate object until he's sentient, and he's an object in my possession."

"You really can't base your ethical stance on a bad law." But he was Jack, she knew, and he was perfectly capable of basing his morality on nothing more substantive than the toss of a coin.


Whether she'd got through to him or whether he'd just got bored Jack's ministrations to the clone in the body vault had become almost fraternal in nature as the weeks passed. Indeed as far as she could tell – and she'd spent a good few days checking and rechecking the seals on her core circuitry – he'd also neglected to follow through on his threat to reprogram her personality subroutine.
Nevertheless something had changed. The daylight hours were now spent keeping the voracious plant life away from the hub perimeter; Jack with his axe and Toshiko with a small army of gardener drones at her disposal equipped with flamethrowers and pesticides. She'd even managed to jury rig a ring projector along the curved edge of the habitat shell and could now manifest outside the walls if necessary. It was all quite homely in a way.

Until one humid afternoon their lunchtime was interrupted by a loud gong from inside the dome. Toshiko's avatar blinked suddenly and with the disposition of a nervous midwife informed Jack the wait was over. His package had just unwrapped itself.



IV Anadyomene

In the eighth year of the Great Despair Festival the man who had been called a thousand and twenty one names —
some of them in ancient Welsh — came to the water world of Anadyomene

Could the sea avail to Sappho drifting dead upon the foam?

They had landed the habitat dome on a remote coastline off the Azuran Ocean during one of the planet's long autumns, using the last part of the season to shore their home against the encroaching ice winds. Ianto – she had long since stopped thinking of him merely as a clone – had blossomed into a young man from the clumsy creature newly hatched from the body vault barely a year and a half ago, and was energetically shovelling sand against the windbreaker in a valiant attempt to steady its foundations. Jack meanwhile had gone walkabout with a satchel of proximity detectors to ensure they would have at least a few minutes warning should any passing visitors intrude upon their privacy.

"I could get a couple of construction drones out of storage to help you with that." Actually she had suggested that to Jack but he'd been adamant the young man took care of his own muscle tone and didn't rely on the catafalque's ministrations.

He grinned at the hologram's concern. "It's okay, Tosh. I like the exercise. Besides – it won't do Jack any harm to be on his own for a bit." His cheeks were ruddy after the morning's work.

You'd be surprised, she snorted silently to herself. "Well, let me know if you change your mind." She knew he wouldn't though. Where Jack was staunch through stubbornness the Welshman was the same through a natural reserve.

Ianto leaned on his shovel for a moment, breath steaming in the cold air. "Are you lonely, Tosh?"

The question was most peculiar to her yet it was also indicative that Ianto was in no way a downloaded copy of Jack's personality.

"Jack's got me," the young man said slowly, formulating his thoughts. "But who have you got? You should have another A.I. to talk to."

"Don't you worry about me. I have plenty to do keeping both of you safe." Untrue of course. Only a small part of her computation matrix was taken up with surveillance the rest of the time she whiled away sending data probes out into the local planetary system, watching tri-D soap operas, experiential sex grids, educational bulletins. With Jack out of earshot she chanced on asking the one question he'd forbidden her to utter. "Do you remember anything of me from before?"

A frown of epic proportions. "Sometimes when I dream parts come back."

"Which parts?"

Ianto looked straight at her camera lens. "I remember he always made me bleed."


"Maybe a Gwen. Or a Martha", Toshiko said to the shower partition as Jack washed heat back into his body. "Nothing expensive – one of those small units the Bergamot Corporation makes. I could get one of the drones to fashion a mobile avatar from our spares."

"And what would two holograms talk about?" The foaming water streamed down his front flattening his pubic hair. She noticed he was already in early tumescence, no doubt anticipating his later coupling with Ianto or reliving that morning's pre-breakfast romp.

"Oh, girly stuff," she said evasively. "Dresses and makeup. You know…"  From beneath the shower head came a snort of derision.


She heard the noises coming from the bedroom area and switched off the microphones on the western part of the dome. Once the two humans had retired for the night there was little to occupy her circuitry save the endless watch on the stars for judiciar activity. Jack she knew would have covered his tracks meticulously but there was always a worry one of the policemen would trace his movements from Yoshiwara to Nenuphor. Given how much money he'd ripped from the pockets of King Ruth's subjects it would surely have occurred to even the lowliest judiciar officer what that kind of cash would buy from a corrupt fleshmaster. Possession of a clone wasn't in itself illegal but possession of someone else's clone without an original consent document was most definitely an offence — and a capital one to boot.

Twenty seven minutes after she first switched off part of her audio receptors her cameras caught Ianto wandering along the hallway wrapped only in a long blue towel. He looked vacantly at her image when she shimmered alongside.

"Are you okay?" She found the difference in bodies between the two humans fascinating. Not just the size and colouring of their genitalia or the fact that Jack was nearly hairless compared to Ianto's hirsuteness. It was the little details – the way the skin on Ianto's chest flushed when he was aroused; the way his left nipple erected first; his habit of tugging at his scrotum when he first undressed as if the wrinkled sack was too tight to contain the fullness of his testicles. The way he blushed ashamedly if he made a farting noise during sex. The foreplay and penetration she found paling after the first dozen or so instances. Once she'd mapped Jack's actions into a grid of likely orders and combinations of movements the mathematical uncertainty faded away. Biological form, with its fractal beauty, was of far more interest to her A.I. brain.

His lips were dry. "I bled a lot tonight. He likes that." Ceiling receptors picked up the scent of sex and soap. He sauntered off into a camera-free zone leaving her avatar staring unblinkingly at his back.


"Are you accusing me of torturing him?"

She shook her head vehemently. "There's no sign of any physical injury at all. Nothing you've done and nothing he's done to himself." The med scanner had been quite thorough in that respect. "Other than a mild temperature and a slightly elevated respiration rate he's as fit as you are."

Jack put his hands behind his head and stared hard at his shoes. "You could be making all this up because I refused to build you an friend."

"Yes, I could" she said simply. "And if it was a matter of simple jealously don't think I wouldn't be capable of acting in far more insidiously subtle way."

There was a cry from the sick bay door. Jack rushed straight through her projection in hurry to get to Ianto.

The Welshman was sitting up on the couch, his hairy chest reddened. Something in his palm was fascinating him. "Look Jack," he said holding his hand up so the older man could see clearly. "I made myself bleed thinking about you."

"Ianto…" Jack said, softly. "That's not blood."


"It is not my programming," Toshiko said firmly. "Check the modules yourself if you don't trust me." She used the console monitors to display the raw code on all five walls of the control room. "See?"

The man in the room said nothing.

"It has to be at a lower level." Perhaps in the medulla oblongata where it wouldn't show up in regular scans. "Feeding back into the speech centre." A subtle crossover with only a few wrong words in the clone's vocabulary to indicate anything out of the ordinary.

Still he said nothing.

"You have to face it, Jack. This isn't just damaged DNA. This is deliberate genetic sabotage."


"There's something wrong with me, isn't there?"

Her circuitry weighed up the projected consequences of several replies and decided on balance it was better to be truthful. "We think there is."

He was munching his way through a cereal bar (she smelled oats, molasses, grape oils) almost oblivious to the seething worry surrounding him. "You're very like her."

"The original Toshiko Sato?"

Ianto nodded, wiping a few stray crumbs from the side of his mouth. "She was very caring too." He burped abruptly, then chuckled embarrassed. "Jack's stopped touching me."

"It's only because he's worried."

"I miss his strong arms." Another sudden burp made his eyes water. "Where is he?"

"Researching," she said, sensing the lightwave aerial on the hub's roof realigning itself to a distant planet.

The young man coughed to clear his throat. "Ohh." Something was clearly wrong. He leaned forward in the chair and with an apologetic look in Tosh's direction vomited over the table. "Bother."


After four hours the message came back, laced with static from a dozen solar systems, dancing around the screen as the decoders frantically tried to sift the genuine signal from the background noise. "Dear client," the bulbous eyes said, "We of the Hive offer our services at this time in the spirit of your Great Despair Festival. We wish all our human clients a very joyous misery for the duration of the carnival."



V Duenna

In the ninth year of the Great Despair Festival the man who had been many things
to many people brought to the Matriarchate of Duenna a thing that screamed in the night

Du siehst mich nimmerdar genung

He had continued to deteriorate during their escape from Anadyomene and his periods of lucidity were measured in tens of minutes not hours; his nights broken into segments where his unconscious mind screamed out its pain: a peculiar high pitched mewling that made the hairs on the back of Jack's neck stand up. Even Martha whose subroutines were built around all the medical knowledge Toshiko could leech from the datastreams of Diaspar had no answers.

One of the hologirls was always by Ianto's side during the brief periods Jack had spent in the Capitol seeking advice from the Elder Meretrix in the Prostibulae Guild whose knowledge of male anatomy was unsurpassed in seven solar systems. Even as she cast the runes into her medichalice Jack's eyes were already in mourning. "Go home and prepare," the crone had said sympathetically. "The ways of the Nenuphari Hive are not cognisable to outsiders. There is no one on Duenna or the Thirty Three Worlds who can save him now."

(Far away on Yoshiwara a cyber-soothsayer closed chrome eyes set in a dead face and wheeled itself back into the shrine beneath the curve of the Columbine Circuit, weeping oil in libation for the soul of Ianto lon Jones.)


A naked arm, covered in scratches, stopped Jack mid-sentence. "Elvis," it whispered brokenly. "Elvis." And locked into his own insanity the man it knew as Jack Harkness understood. In a rage he drew up plans for condign action, working feverishly on a table he'd set beside the catafalque where Ianto spent his mad hours huddled in the velvet womb; his tireless hands blindly fumbling with protractors, slide rules and navcoms, scribbling notes onto a paper pad like a poet possessed.


It took a dozen tarriel cells to power the iridium drive Jack installed at the centre of the dome – half bought with the remaining money from his earlier games, half donated by the Elder Meretrix who wished to expand her reputation to cover the remaining Sixty Four Worlds and saw an opportunity to rid herself of an inhuman rival. Jack became unstoppable. During the moments when the dying clone was Ianto he held the trembling body in his arms soothing his brow, kissing the cracked lips as they smiled. When the clone was nothing more sentient than an injured animal he bade Martha tend to it whilst he and Toshiko's worker drones reconfigured the hub's internal architecture, strengthening bulwarks, welding doors airtight against the coming vacuum.


Hours pass. Jack is himself poised between desolation and a tropic desire to act, however futilely: a silent scream fossilised within the taut sinews of his throat. Eyes which have dryly witnessed atrocities blinking back a beserker rage aimed squarely at the inhuman denizens of Nenuphar and their eagerness to embrace the ethos of the Great Despair Festival.

An old fashioned terror tears into the edge of the night seizing Jack's heart from the night's redeeming embrace as he attempts to rest from his labour. Unable to hold still he paces the circular corridor, around and around, until even Toshiko's electronic brain can stand no more and calls for surcease. Wretched in his thoughts he pauses by the sighing mechanism of the catafalque, waves away Martha's flickering avatar, and takes an insensible hand in his own, strong fingers brushing over the pale skin and coarse hairs on Ianto's wrist. The body vault has automatically sedated the clone recognising at some level the disintegrating mind yet even in the arms of Morpheus the strain on the young man's face is evident; lids stretched tight over darting eyes; breath a harsh rattle between parted lips.

"Start the countdown," he says to the empty air.

There is an audible hum from within the core as the lights darken. Toshiko's voice comes like soft rain from the ceiling. "T minus three hours."


On the screen the two house holograms where holding hands. That was a development he hadn't foreseen. The Martha had been built from a basic medical program but Toshiko had installed a couple of her own emergency backup circuits and tweaked a few million lines of code into the semblance of a rudimentary A.I.. It wasn't quite a fully-fledged personality yet however it did have sentience and an almost startling ability to assimilate human behaviour. He was glad Tosh wouldn't be alone at the end.

"My silver-plated hero," sang the head on the screen between dancing lines of static.

Deep within his stolen interceptor Jack Harkness hesitated, unsure which phase of lucidity or madness was talking to him. "Ianto?"

"Do it," said the head blinking slowly with a preternatural calmness. "Do it now." Beside him both the A.I's nodded their heads in unison, hands clasped tightly together.

He stretched a hand forward and depressed a button on the auxiliary console — so easy an execution. In a couple of minutes his scanner picked up the launch of the hubship and the subsequent frantic chatter of Duenna's air traffic control ordering the unscheduled craft to abort lift-off. He watched closely as the clumsy vehicle exited the atmosphere then ignited its stellar drive. A handful of hours later it would slip invisibly into the Nenuphari system, slipping unseen between the giant weapons platforms guarding the hive planet, then decelerate into normal time directly above the roof of the Hall of the Returned.

Silent and proud Jack saluted the monitor, lost in the dark of the cockpit where no one could see his movement. "Goodbye my friends."

There had been no need for explosives. Standard Newtonian physics would do the work.



Epilogue: On Yoshiwara

In the week following what would become known as the Nenuphari Cataclysm a man in a long heavy coat stood at his apartment window on the forty-first floor of the Glass Emporium watching the last of the fires being extinguished in the Lower City. Yoshiwara, the old lady scarred and haunted by unrecoverable years, was emerging from the last days of the seventh Great Despair Festival wounded but defiant. The crumbling statue of King Ruth IV, once the proud centrepiece of the Plaza of Unrealised Dreams had been bedecked by rainbow-coloured bunting, a garish swathe of bright hues among the smoked timbers and cracked stonework of the almshouses. Beneath the shadowy arc of the vast aerial Columbine Circuit the booths of the cyber-soothsayers were flung open by metal arms calling the faithful back to their oily prognostications, promising oracles of marvel and delight.

Ensconced within his luxury goldfish bowl with its scented upholstery and perfumed airs Jack turned back from the coils of smoke outside to the silken elegance of crumpled sheets and the dozy mutterings of an awakening guest.

The young man's body had been odd — nothing tangible enough for Jack to doubt its owner's humanity, just a vague sensation of flesh being softer than it should have been for a man of that age, muscle tone less well formed. Not that the night had been disappointing (disconcerting certainly, especially when his nocturnal companion had halted mid thrust to ask 'is it supposed to do that?') but he couldn't throw the feeling that the man had just borrowed his human form from someone else and hadn't quite got used to how it worked.

"So what will you do now?"

Jack indicated the inert bracelet on his wrist. "Find someone in the galaxy capable of repairing this. Then go back and get a better DNA sample."

Long fingers fluttered over the leather band. "I think I could fix this by lunchtime." A hand pushed back a wall of hair that had fallen over an eye. "Give or take a sandwich or two."

There was a hesitation. Jack weighed up the probability of farther damage to his broken vortex manipulator. "It's very valuable. And quite delicate."

A pair of piercing eyes caught him in a long stare. "Are we having a trust issue here?"

"I don't know anything about you. Tell me one concrete fact I can pin my luck on." Sex was one thing. His meagre personal possessions something quite different. "Just one little thing."

"Well," the young man said, sliding his fingers around Jack's strong wrist to unfasten the bracelet. "I once had a friend whose name was an anagram of Mad Pony."


"Careful, Sweetie," the woman behind the bar said. "There's a reason you disabled that thing in the first place."

The young man perched precariously on the stool shrugged. "You saw what he did to Nenuphar. I think a time-travelling Jack is the least offensive option."

She stopped cleaning a glass long enough to blow a kiss at him. "I love it when you're so forgiving."


Du siehst mich nimmerdar genung,													And yet you do not see me well enough,
so weit du blickst im Stübchen,														While sitting with me above,
und folgst du mir per Rösselsprung —											But gaze as if I were but some puzzle's fluff —
wirst du verrückt, mein Liebchen.													Have you gone mad, my love?
— Christian Morgensten, "Wallpaper Flowers"